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Norcal’s First Paralympic Boat Takes 2nd at Head of the Charles

Burlingame High School sophomore Joss Tramel, 15, lost the use of her left hand and left foot at the age of 9, and was told she may never walk again. On Saturday, Oct. 22, she competed in the internationally renowned Head of the Charles Regatta with her teammates from Norcal Crew and a fellow paralympic rower from Community Rowing Inc., a Boston rowing club.

When she was 9 years old, Joss was electrocuted in a swimming pool in an accident that killed her father and caused a massive Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) for her. When she awoke from her coma, doctors were unsure if she would walk or talk again. She was hospitalized for three months of rehab and today is a thriving 15-year-old. She has overcome a lot, but does have permanent disabilities. Joss walks with a left leg brace (she has limited use of her ankle/foot) and she has no use of her left wrist/hand. She also has Hemianopsia (loss of vision out the left half of each eye) which means she can see straight ahead but has no peripheral vision on her left side.  She compensates for her injuries in rowing by using a modified SMO (supramalleolar orthosis) ankle brace and an amputee wrist guard modified to help her brace the oar on her left side while pulling with her right side. Joss took her first rowing lesson in the summer of 2020 and joined Norcal Crew in 2021.

At the Head of the Charles on Oct. 22, she raced in the Mixed Para Inclusion 4+ race, which means there were four rowers in the boat plus one coxswain who steers. Mixed inclusion boats have men and women, abled and disabled rowers. Joss and her Norcal teammates are all high school students, with Joss the youngest at 15. They were joined in the boat by 29-year-old Matthew McLaughlin, a paralympic rower from Community Rowing Inc. Norcal’s boat placed second, behind Athletes Without Limits, a Virginia-based club. AWL supports athletes with intellectual disabilities, and their boat at Head of the Charles included adults ranging in age from 18 to 30.

“I haven’t always believed in myself and my ability to row because my disabilities do not allow me to use my body the way that my teammates do, so I need a number of adaptations to help me row. But thanks to the amazing love and support of my coaches and teammates, I am more confident in myself and my rowing than I have ever been,” Joss said.

“Rowing is the ultimate team sport, you need everyone to work together and work as one unit.  It is my vision that athletes like Joss can shine in the sport of rowing. She is a vital part of our team, her attitude is amazing and she makes the rest of the team work harder,” said Beth Anderson, executive director of Norcal Crew.

Pictured from left to right: Emily Pecore, Joss Tramel, Matthew McLaughling of Community Rowing Inc., Abby Camp, and coxswain Isabella Tapper.